Tag Archives: accountabiity

Who is Accountable for Results?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Our company just adopted a new management system called (MFR) Management for Results. As a manager, I have been told to focus on results. I am supposed to delegate a task assignment, create a measurement for the result, then manage to the measurement. It is supposed to make my team discussions shorter and more to the point. If my team cannot create the result, then I am supposed to write them up. Our HR department is very supportive of MFR because, they say, it creates an objective paper trail for termination.

Here is my problem. I am supposed to measure the result at the end of each month. It has only been a week and my team is already struggling. My manager is telling me to stay out of it and just manage the result at the end of the month. If nothing changes, every single team member will get written up.

Of course you would not wait until the end of the month. You, as the manager, have an output goal and if you wait until the end of the month, you will terminate the team AND be short of the goal.

This is the myth of results based management. It places accountability for the goal on the team, when it is the manager who is accountable for the goal. If the team is failing, it is incumbent on the manager to diagnose the problem and make the necessary moves to achieve the goal.

  • Is it a matter of training?
  • Is it a matter of capability?
  • Work method?
  • Appropriate tools or tooling?
  • Defect measurement?
  • Scheduling?
  • Material inspection?

There are a number of contributing factors that could cause a team to underperform, and it is the manager I hold accountable, not the team. -Tom

Whose Goal?

“What changed?” I asked.

“I told the team that if they failed to reach the goal, I am the one accountable. I told them that I would no longer yell at them if we didn’t meet the output target,” Glen explained.

“You are not going to yell? What are you, getting soft on me, turning into a nice guy?”

“This has nothing to do with being nice. This has everything to do with accountability. I realized that, as the manager, I control all the resources. I can modify the method of work, I can make adjustments to deal with unforeseen circumstances, I can add team members, I can authorize overtime, I can reassign some of the work to someone else, I can call the client and re-negotiate a partial delivery. As the manager, I control resources. It’s me. I am the one accountable for the output of the team. It’s my goal.”

“And, how did your team respond?”

“Amazing. They said they would help me.”

Circumstances Out of Our Control

“What changed?” I asked.

“You had a talk with my manager. You told my manager that he is accountable for my output,” Dennis replied.

“So, what changed?”

“Before, if things didn’t go well, we would always get yelled at. I mean, not yelled at, but we would certainly get the drift that my manager was irritated. We come to work and try very hard to do our best, but sometimes, things just don’t go the way they are supposed to. Maybe a supplier would deliver late and we would have to double-time it to beat the deadline. When we try to work faster, sometimes we don’t get a chance to check all the tolerances. So, sometimes we would come up short and not all the finished work would pass QC. And, then we would get yelled at.”


“And, it just didn’t seem fair. We weren’t late, the supplier was late. That made us late. Do you know what it feels like to have your feet held to the fire for someone else’s screw up? And, it’s not like we have any control over the supplier. We didn’t place the order. But, we still get blamed.” Dennis stopped his story.

“So, what changed?”

“You talked to my manager. You told him that he was accountable for my output. It was like magic. You know the order to the supplier? Turned out, he didn’t place the order until after hours yesterday. That’s why it was late this morning.”

“What did your manager say?”

“He apologized. He said, from now on, he was going to be accountable for the output of the team. He said he needed each of us to do our best, but no more yelling on his part.”

“So, what is different?”

“It’s like a breath of fresh air. Instead of looking to us to find fault or blame, he looks to see where he can help support us. He is a very different person.”

Breakdown in Communication is Only the Symptom

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

You talk about how most problems are structural problems. I don’t get it. Our company has a communication problem. Because people don’t talk to each other, at the right time, balls get dropped. If we could just communicate better, things would go smoother.

You think you have a communication problem. And, you can have all the communication seminars you want, you will still have breakdowns in communication and balls will still get dropped.

You have a communication symptom of a structural problem. Structure is the defined accountability and authority in working relationships. You have a communication symptom because the working relationship between two people was never clearly defined.

As the manager, you know specific information should be communicated at a specific time, and you assume the two teammates will figure out what (needs to be communicated) and when. So, when that doesn’t happen, you think you have a communication problem. That is only the symptom.

The communication never happened, or didn’t happen at the right time, because, as the manager, you never required the information be passed on at a specific time. As the manager, you never defined the accountability in the working relationship, so the two teammates were left to twist in the wind.

You have a structural problem (defined accountability), with a communication symptom. Define the specific accountability and the communication symptom fixes itself.
Registration for our online program Hiring Talent – 2016 is now open. We had a solid signup day yesterday, so only five slots left. Follow this link for more information.

Whose System Is It?

“You were right,” Byron admitted. “I took a look at the system. The ten percent reject rate was caused by a small burr on a threaded plastic part. The part didn’t seal right and the cylinder wouldn’t hold the pressure.”

“So, your team could have worked harder, stayed longer, given it all their might and the reject rate would have stayed at ten percent?” I floated.

Byron nodded. “I was sure it was the team. I am actually sorry I yelled at them. They just seemed down in the dumps, lackadaisical, you know, unmotivated.”

“Why do you think they were down in the dumps?” I pressed.

“Probably my fault. They were, in fact, doing their best. I thought their best wasn’t good enough. I was too quick to lay blame. In the end, it was my fault. I ordered some surplus parts from another vendor. Our original supplier was so good, we only sampled one in a hundred parts in receiving, they were always good. The new vendor parts had a 50 percent failure rate, but the samples we pulled, one in a hundred, didn’t pick up they were out of spec half the time. It was the system that allowed the failure rate.”

“And, whose system was that?”

Byron almost choked, but managed to get it out. “Mine.”

But, We Have an Org Chart

“But, everyone understands the structure. Everyone knows who they report to. I mean, we have an org chart,” Andre protested.

“And, I said – clear recognition of individual team members, each with individual accountability in clearly defined working relationships. That’s different and rarely exists. Tell me how things work around here,” I asked.

“The managers tell everybody what to do and then correct their mistakes,” Andre looked puzzled at his own response.

“Exactly, in what you just described, which is typical for most organizations, I have no clue who is accountable for the work output. I have no idea of the work of the manager. And, I have no idea how people work together when neither is each other’s manager. In the absence of clarity, people make things up, on their own and that is why you see petty bickering, overt passive-aggressive behavior, borrowed staplers not returned, people eating other people’s lunch (metaphorically). That is why you see bright ideas, ignored or made fun of. Project assignments are hoarded and protected. Promotions are based on favoritism.” I stopped. Andre’s eye were wide open.

“How long have you been watching us?” he asked.

“I think I have been here the better part of ten minutes,” I replied.

Why We Have Supervisors

“Yes,” Samuel appeared a bit agitated. “But, you are dealing with the rank and file. You are sitting in a pretty nice boardroom, Catherine. You have a nice salary. I know you and I may have bouts of frustration with our work, but at the end of the day, we have it pretty good. But, the rank and file, that is another question. In their jobs, they must all be frustrated. I mean, it is pretty lackluster work. That’s why we have to have supervisors, to keep them in line, to make sure they don’t sit around and play on their smartphones all day.”

Catherine’s blood pressure began to rise. Her face flushed. “Mr. Pierce, it is coming clear to me why Outbound Air, as a small upstart airline, got into so much trouble after your company bought it. It appears, I have as much work to do with the board of directors as I do with the team.”

“Catherine, I am all ears,” Samuel responded. “But I must tell you, we have a large investment in this airline, we have poured in a lot of capital to introduce jet service to the fleet. Your intentions with the company must be grounded in a solid return on that investment.”

“I appreciate your reminder of the value of the shareholders who bear the risk. And that risk is shared by our workforce. Each team member comes to work every day with the full intention of doing their best. They want work that gives them the opportunity to use their full potential. They want to spread their wings and receive fair compensation for that work. They want to use their brain, to exercise judgement in making decisions to reach a goal. They have goals, just like you have goals. They have a need, not only to bring value to their own lives, but to bring value to the lives of the people who work around them. As the chairman of the board, if you do not recognize that, my work as CEO is already doomed. All crumbs lead to the top.”

This is the beginning of the sequel to Outbound Air. Find out how Catherine got here.